Who We Are

Kurt Hoelting


Inside Passages was founded in 1994 by Kurt Hoelting, an Alaska commercial fisherman, Zen student and former Protestant clergyman. For twenty-five years he has been head guide and lead teacher on over 70 week-long mindfulness-based kayaking expeditions in Southeast Alaska.

Kurt grew up by the shores of the Puget Sound, spending his youth in Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, B.C. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and Harvard Divinity School.

Kurt has worked summers as a commercial fisherman and wilderness guide in Alaska for several decades. In 1994 he founded Inside Passages, a sea kayaking outfitter/guide business that combines his loves for wilderness exploration, meditation practice, and ecological restoration. He has guided dozens of kayaking expeditions in the Southeast Alaskan wilderness for leaders from a wide variety of professional fields.

When not in Alaska, Kurt is a Senior Teacher with the Cascadia Mindfulness Institute in Seattle, where he leads Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes at the VA Hospital and the Samaritan Center of Puget Sound. He is certified as an MBSR teacher by the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. He also offers mindfulness trainings and workshops throughout the Cascadia bioregion.

Kurt is the author of The Circumference of Home: One Man’s Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life, which was a finalist for the 2011 Washington State Book Award. He lives on Whidbey Island.  

Southeast Alaska

The Devil's Thumb, as seen from Petersburg, Alaska

The Devil's Thumb, as seen from Petersburg, Alaska

Your trip with Inside Passages will take you to the heart of an increasingly rare wild coastal ecosystem in Alaska's Panhandle region, otherwise known as the Alexander Archipelago, or more commonly, Southeast Alaska. Unlike any other region in the world this region contains the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest, the largest in the US National Forest System, with much of the last intact old growth temperate rainforest left on the planet. Stretching from Dixon Entrance to Icy Bay, this tapestry of islands, fjords and glaciated mountains contains over 15,000 miles of coastline, more than the entire contiguous United States combined. Because of the remote and rugged nature of the region, much of it remains essentially wild in character right down to tidewater. The Tongass region is also home to the world's largest concentrations of bald eagles, and many other free roaming wild species that are endangered or extinct in the lower 48 states. 

Icebergs from LeConte Glacier near Petersburg, Alaska, as seen on approach to the Petersburg airport

Icebergs from LeConte Glacier near Petersburg, Alaska, as seen on approach to the Petersburg airport

Your trip will begin and end in Petersburg, a thriving fishing community on Mitkof Island, at the junction of Frederick Sound and the Wrangell Narrows. Petersburg offers a spectacular view of the Coast Range and close proximity to the impressive LeConte Glacier, the southernmost glacier in North America to terminate at tidewater (hence generating icebergs). 

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Your retreat home for the week will be Keene Channel Lodge, at the junction of Beecher Pass and the Wrangell Narrows, fourteen miles south of Petersburg. The lodge provides comfortable accommodations in an off-the-grid location that offers access to ideal sea kayaking terrain on Alaska's Inside Passage. 

View from Keene Channel Lodge

View from Keene Channel Lodge


Beneath these days was a blend of deep and peaceful meditation and silent times, close, often wordless companionship, long walks in solitude, rich conversation about what it all meant for our own lives, and an abiding sense of awe in being so close to, so much a part of Wildness–a feeling so subtle, so deep that it is almost not a feeling at all but rather a kind of resonance that is working at some elemental level beneath any naming. I will never be the same again. - L.D., Whidbey Island

The choice of the place itself, the plan of our days with their ordered rhythm of silence and shared conversation, activity and rest, of looking outward with sharpened attention and looking inward with searching contemplation – everything combined to create a sense of consecrated time, time set apart for an encounter with the holy, in whatever form that might take for each one of us. - R.R., Boston, MA

This experience helped me trust much more deeply in my inherent worth—my value and contribution. I felt a deep calmness, like my entire system just relaxed. So many of us are working really hard, pushing ourselves to the limit, and we don’t really know how to find a deeper balance. I’m appreciating that there is a deeper, fuller, richer reality surrounding us. - D.M., Seattle, Young Changemaker Trip (2015)

Here, in this “practice of the wild,” inside such a mystical and beautiful Northwest wilderness in which I feel so joyful and alive, it seems easy to radiate love. With the privilege of journeying in this place, and with so much wellness built into each day, I feel more easeful than I can remember. - J.C., Seattle, Young Changemaker Trip (2015)

Carbon Offsets

Inside Passages recognizes that jet travel to participate in these trips carries a hidden cost that is being born by all of us. The cost of our accelerating climate crisis, and its impacts on all of earth’s fragile ecosystems. We know that our clients share our concern about the need to mitigate the impacts of our high carbon lifestyles. Carbon offsets are one way that we can narrow the gap between what we know, and how we are living. Therefore, Inside Passages trip cost includes a modest carbon offset fee of $25 per participant, which we contribute to the Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Offset program.

We operate on the Tongass National Forest under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service.